Sunday, May 19th: Blessed Are The Cheese Makers! Our Annual Salute To Local Cheese!

Cheese maker Heather Howell of Twin Oaks Creamery holds up a wheel of her flavored cheddar. Photo copyright 2013 by Zachary D. Lyons. Monday is Seattle Chefs Collaborative's 7th Annual Washington Cheese Meet & Greet, and event that introduces Washington's great cheese makers to Seattle's great professional culinary community, while also raising scholarship funds to educate Seattle's chefs and culinary students about farming and local food production. And each year, I take this opportunity to salute the cheese makers at your Ballard Farmers Market, most of whom will be in attendance at Monday evening's event. Let's start this salute with one of our newest, and our most diversified dairy farms, Twin Oaks Creamery. Located in Chehalis, Twin Oaks raises dairy goats and cows, and from the milk of their animals, they produce bottled milkyogurtfresh cheeses (chevre, fromage blanc, feta, curds, etc.) and aged raw-milk cheeses (romano, cheddar, gruyere, etc.). Wonderful stuff. Their feta and goat yogurt are necessities in my house.

Cheese maker Matthew Day from Mt. Townsend Creamery in one of his four cheese caves in Port Townsend. Photo copyright 2010 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Mt. Townsend Creamery has been producing some of Washington's finest artisan cheeses in Port Townsend for years, and selling it directly to you right here at your Ballard Farmers Market! From their simply perfect truffled fromage that, paired with a Grateful Bread Bakery bagel and some Loki Fish coho lox is a little slice of heaven, to their Seastack and Cirrus cheeses that have won just about every cheese award out there, there is bound to be a cheese variety amongst their dozen or so that will please you. And if you are anything like me (for which I apologize), you'll like all of them!

Victor Jensen in the aging room at Golden Glen Creamery. Photo copyright by Mandy Alderink, courtesy of Golden Glen Creamery.

Golden Glen Creamery is an old-school dairy up in the Skagit River Delta in Bow. For years, they've been making cheddar and gouda cheeses, as well as fromage blancfetafresh curds, and even butter. Golden Glen was one of the first local dairy farms to convert to direct marketing and making cheese, helping launch what is nothing short of a cheese making explosion in Washington.

Samish Bay Cheese makes a variety of delicious farmstead cheeses. Photo copyright 2009 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Another of Washington's early cheese makers is Samish Bay Cheese, also in Bow. In fact, it is just a mile or two away from Golden Glen. Samish Bay, too, once made gouda cheeses. Goudas, which come from the Netherlands, found a natural home in Skagit and Whatcom Counties, where large Dutch populations settled and now produce the second largest number of tulip bulbs on earth, behind the Netherlands itself. But Samish Bay changed course several years back, and the result is a collection of award-winning fresh cheeses, like their Ladysmith. This is a lovely, delicate cheese that will thrill your palate. Samish Bay's queso fresco is now featured on the menus of both Patty Pan Grill and Los Chilangos right here in your Ballard Farmers Market. And try some of their flavored and aged cheeses. Part of the beauty of cheese is that, as it ages, the very same cheese develops an entirely new flavor and texture. Enjoy.

The aged cave at Rosecrest Farm. Photo copyright 2013 by Zachary D. Lyons.

This is the aging cave at Rosecrest Farm in Chehalis, just a few miles away from Twin Oaks Creamery. Rosecrest has a huge red barn that was built in 1914, and originally, the farm produced beef. Sharon & Gary McCool took over the farm around 2006 and moved their dairy operation there, producing organic milk, most of which it sells to Organic Valley, or to be made into butter by Rose Valley Creamery. But they keep some to make Washington's only Swiss styles of cheese. These rich and buttery aged, raw-milk cheeses are spectacular, and you will develop a habit. They are aged in this wonderful room that was originally used as a meat locker for the previous farm, which sold beef from the farm. As you can see from this photo, the door to the room is incredibly thick, as are the walls, which results in the room maintaining a contant temperature of 50 degrees, and a relative humidity of about 90 percent, year-round, without the need for mechanical refrigeration -- perfect for aging cheese. Taste the results today at your Ballard Farmers Market!

Fresh chevre from Port Madison. Photo copyright 2011 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Steve Wilson of Port Madison Farms retired from cheese making last fall, much to the dismay of the faithful fans of his chevre and aged goat cheeses. But as it turns out, Steve's wife, Beverly, didn't get the retirement memo. Lucky us! Port Madison returned two weeks ago to your Ballard Farmers Market. Enjoy the cheeseliciousness while you can, though, just in case that retirement memo does finally show up!

Farmstead cheeses from Sea Breeze Farm. Photo copyright 2012 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Sea Breeze Farm doesn't always have cheese, but when they do, you will likely find this lovely tomme atop their case. It is made with the raw milk they produce on their farm on Vashon Island, and they age it in their cheese and wine cellar, a wonderfully dark and cool room under the farmhouse ideal for aging both products. Stepping into a cellar such as theirs is like stepping back in time. How, you ask? Simple. Wine and cheese making are two of the oldest forms of food preservation on earth. All you needed was a cool, dark, slightly damp cave to age them, and you could extend the life of your grapes and milk for months, even years. And the best cheese-aging caves are long inoculated with the bacteria and molds that have evolved there to make that cave's cheeses unique.

There is plenty more local deliciousness waiting for you today at your Ballard Farmers Market. Just check What’s Fresh Now! for a more complete accounting of what is in season right now.

Please remember bring your own bags every Sunday, as Seattle’s single-use plastic bag ban is now in effect. Also, please take note of our new green composting and blue recycling waste receptacles throughout your Ballard Farmers Market, and please make an effort to use them correctly. Each container has what’s okay to put in it pictured right on the lid. Please do not put the wrong materials in, because that drives up the cost of recycling and composting, and it can result in the entire container being sent instead to a landfill. Your understanding and cooperation are appreciated.